IWPR's Caucasus Reporting Service, No. 51: excerpts


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Subject: IWPR's Caucasus Reporting Service, No. 51: excerpts

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IWPR's Caucasus Reporting Service, No. 51: excerpts


ARMENIA WOOS INVESTMENT AT ANY PRICE  Economists have accused the
Yerevan government of selling the cream of Armenian industry at
bargain-basement prices. Artur Erndzhakian reports from Yerevan.
 
COMMENT: THE LAND OF LOST CONTENT  An analysis of the Ossetian-Ingush
conflict which continues to blight any attempts to bring the region
out of the Soviet wilderness. Valery Dzutsev comments from Vladikavkaz
 
RUSSIAN PROPAGANDA WEARS THIN  Why peoples across the Caucasus have
been slow in voicing their support for their embattled ethnic kin in
Chechnya. Cherkes Bek comments from Cherkessk
 
********** VISIT IWPR ON-LINE: www.iwpr.net **************

..................

THE LAND OF LOST CONTENT
 
COMMENT: An analysis of the Ossetian-Ingush conflict which continues
to blight any attempts to bring the region out of the Soviet
wilderness
 
By Valery Dzutsev in Vladikavkaz
 
In sharp contrast to the other wars of the North Caucasus, the
simmering Ossetian-Ingush conflict has nothing to do with
independence, autonomy or tribal identity. It is, at heart, a struggle
for prime agricultural land.

In the republic of North Ossetia, where nearly half the territory is
mountainous, the rich soils of the Prigorodny district have come to
assume an extraordinary political significance for the indigenous
population. For many, it has become a matter of life or death.
 
It was this territorial dispute that erupted into bloody conflict in
the autumn of 1992 - a vicious five-day war which claimed an estimated
500 lives on both sides and left 35,000 homeless. But the seeds of
discontent had been handed down from one generation to another.
 
The most recent chapter was opened by Stalin in 1944, when he deported
trainloads of Ingush to Kazakhstan for allegedly collaborating with
the Nazis. When the exiles were rehabilitated by Khrushchev in 1957,
40 per cent of the territory traditionally held by the Ingush was
transferred to North Ossetia.
 
The next 25 years saw the Ingush struggling to gain political control
over part of the Prigorodny district and part of the capital,
Vladikavkaz. On the face of it, the Ossetians did their best to play
down the problem, resorting to old Soviet platitudes such as
"Friendship between Nations". Behind the scenes, however, they made
concerted efforts to exclude the Ingush from political and financial
institutions.
 
Things came to a head in the autumn of 1981 when the murder of an
Ossetian taxi-driver - allegedly by the Ingush - sparked mass protest
meetings in Vladikavkaz. Fighting raged in the streets for nearly
three days as interior ministry troops clashed with the crowds. Dozens
of people were arrested.
 
As a result of the troubles, an ethnic Ossetian, Bilar Kabaloev, was
replaced as head of the local administration by a Russian, Vladimir
Odintsov, who then attempted to dilute Ossetian influence in the
corridors of power by appointing Ingush candidates to top government
positions. The Ossetians ceased to be masters of their autonomous
republic until perestroika began in 1985.
 
Before 1992, the population of most disputed towns was predominantly
Ingush while ethnic Ossetians enjoyed political control. This state of
affairs incensed the Ingush who thought they were being deprived of
their rightful inheritance. Now, with Communist ideology on the wane
and the central government in Moscow tottering, the Ingush took the
law into their own hands and launched an armed assault on local
government buildings in Vladikavkaz.
 
The action was prompted by an October 25 resolution adopted by the
leading deputies of three Ingush districts, who claimed that the
Ossetian authorities were unable to guarantee basic rights for the
local Ingush population and urged their people to seize the land that
was rightfully theirs.
 
As the fighting escalated, erstwhile neighbours seized the opportunity
to settle old scores whilst others indulged in an orgy of looting.
 
I personally witnessed an armed Ingush assault on one of the disputed
towns on the night of October 31, 1992. I saw the local police
building in flames, dead men lying in the streets with their eyes wide
open, joy of the faces of my Ingush neighbours, horror on the faces of
others.
 
Hundreds of Ossetians and thousands of Ingush were taken hostage
whilst any Ossetians who attempted to flee some disputed settlements
were summarily shot. But, although atrocities were committed on both
sides, there were many cases of Ossetians saving the lives of their
Ingush neighbours and vice versa.
 
It was three days before the Russians intervened, sending warplanes
over the turbulent republic - although they were never more than a
deterrent. Then the federal forces were deployed as peace-keeping
troops, but the Ingush accused them of siding with the Ossetians and
several units were attacked.
 
Two days later, the Ingush troops were forced to retreat across the
border and the civilian population followed closed behind. Thousands
more were rounded up by the Ossetians and exchanged for Ossetian
hostages. The state of emergency lasted until February 1995.
 
The conflict has never been resolved. Over the past eight years, there
have been literally hundreds of murders, bombings and kidnappings
across the republic. In the spring of 1999, an explosion in
Vladikavkaz central market claimed more than 50 lives. Six more died
when another bomb was detonated in the same location earlier this
year. Last month, three Ossetian police officers were shot dead near
the Ingush-dominated town of Maiskoe. Two weeks ago, President
Alexander Dzasokhov's crime-fighting chief was taken hostage near
Vladikavkaz.
 
In other words, the unrest is already endemic in North Ossetian
society and this phenomenon has its roots in the republic's economic
make-up. Neither North Ossetia nor Ingushetia has the industrial
capacity to support its population so that, for many families,
small-scale cultivation is a prerequisite for survival. However, both
nations are short of fertile land while industrial development is
hampered by the unstable situation - potential investors are unwilling
to commit themselves to a region where internecine violence has become
an occupational hazard.

Of course, thousands of Ingush have returned to their homes in North
Ossetia - primarily to their former enclaves - and many walk openly
through the streets of Vladikavkaz without feeling the need to conceal
their ethnic identity. But the Ossetians are anxious to live apart
from their Ingush cousins, appalled by the prospect of renewed
fighting.
 
The official position of the Republic of Ingushetia is stated in its
constitution: "The Prigorodny district should be returned to
Ingushetia". No one can guarantee that the Ingush will not try to take
the law into their own hands once again.
 
Naturally, much of the onus for resolving the conflict falls on the
shoulders of the two leaders - Ruslan Aushev, president of Ingushetia,
and Dzasokhov, his counterpart in Vladikavkaz. Both men, however, are
prisoners of popular opinion - which itself is largely an emotional
response to the upheavals of the last decade.
 
Aushev has been pressing Moscow to introduce direct presidential rule
in North Ossetia and enable the Ingush refugees to return to their
homes - calls that provoke widespread resentment in the neighbouring
republic.
 
Moscow has already offered the Ingush the opportunity to open bank
accounts and draw allocated sums from the federal treasury. In theory,
the recipients are free to use this money to build homes either in the
Prigorodny region or in Ingushetia but many choose the latter option
for security reasons.
 
Meanwhile, Dzasokhov appears to look on the conflict as an unwelcome
distraction from the real task in hand - accelerating North Ossetia's
economic development - and, like most Ossetians, views Aushev's
position as a patriotic drive to reclaim traditional Ingush
territories.
 
Certainly, there is no ready solution to the stalemate beyond
sustaining an ongoing dialogue and changing certain priorities. The
politicians must learn to value people rather than land - or else
there may be no one left to give the land its value. It is vital for
the leaders of both nations to take responsibility for their people's
future and to realise that peace is in their own best interests.
 
It is also important to avoid excessive interference from Moscow which
may be tempted to use the dormant conflict for its own ends - whether
that be a resolution of the war in Chechnya or for other geo-political
goals.
 
Valery Dzutsev is the coordinator for an international NGO in North
Ossetia


RUSSIAN PROPAGANDA WEARS THIN
 
Why peoples across the Caucasus have been slow in voicing their
support for their embattled ethnic kin in Chechnya
 
By Cherkes Bek in Cherkessk
 
When the Russian army invaded Chechnya in September last year, an
unknown hand daubed the words "The Chechens are heroes, the
Kabardinians are with you" on a fence outside Nalchik's city gates.
Earlier this month, a new slogan appeared on the fence - "The Chechens
are heroes, the Kabardinians are cowards", apparently written by the
same hand. The first legend remains, the second has been hastily
scrubbed off.
 
The graffiti offers a revealing insight into shifting local attitudes
towards the war in Chechnya. Apparently, Russian propaganda is
beginning to wear thin and ethnic bonds which have grown up through
the centuries are starting to trouble consciences across the North
Caucasus.
 
It puts one in mind of the emotionally charged months before the first
Chechen campaign when Musa Shanibov, head of the Confederation of
Caucasian Peoples, threatened a mobilisation of pro-Chechen forces
across the North Caucasus.
 
The politicians in Moscow hesitated - but not for long. And when the
Russian tanks thundered across the Chechen border, Dagestanis,
Cherkess and Kabardinians hurried to the aid of their embattled
cousins. But, for the Chechens at least, they were disappointingly few
in number.
 
It was, perhaps, a combination of circumstances. Many North Caucasian
peoples had suffered losses in the Abkhazian war - the Cherkess alone
lost more than 50 volunteers in the fighting. Furthermore, it seemed
impossible that the Chechens could hold out against the vast Russian
army and the elders discouraged the younger generation from answering
Shanibov's call.
 
Most importantly, all the North Caucasian leaders - with the exception
of Ruslan Aushev, in Ingushetia - publicly supported the invasion of
"mutinous and uncontrollable" Chechnya "which had undermined the unity
of the Russian Federation".
 
By the beginning of the second Chechen campaign, the Russian
propaganda machine had convinced the majority of the local population
that Chechnya was the hub of the nation's criminal underground - a
reputation which the Chechens themselves had done little to overturn.
 
Shortly before the war, Yuri Yerkenov, the head of a regional
administration in Kabardino-Balkaria, was kidnapped in a sensational
armed raid which claimed the life of an old school-friend. Local
people were so shocked by the incident that many contributed their
meagre savings and pensions to meet the ransom demand. Yerkenov was
returned a few months later after his abductors were paid an
undisclosed sum.
 
Although Yerkenov's kidnappers were never found, it was generally
accepted that Chechens were responsible for the crime. And this set a
trend for the months leading up to the Russian invasion - murders and
kidnappings across the North Caucasus were all blamed on Chechen
gangs.
 
Today, the huge cost of the Chechen campaign is turning popular
opinion against the Kremlin. People in neighbouring republics have
been appalled by the vast sums of money being poured into the military
machine while living standards across the region have never been so
low.
 
To add insult to injury, men whom many regard as war criminals have
been showered with military titles and honours while "contract
soldiers" in Chechnya earn 1,000 roubles a day - more than most local
people receive in a month.
 
This summer, a congress held by the International Cherkess Association
in Nalchik reflected this change of heart. One delegate summarised the
opinion of a growing majority when he said, "Everyone knows how
painful it can be to pull out a fingernail. It is just as painful to
watch the destruction of the Chechen people who have lived together
with us for centuries and share brotherly ties.
 
"I ask you all to do everything possible - and maybe impossible - to
put an end to this accursed war."
 
Cherkes Bek is a political commentator in Cherkessk

 
************* VISIT IWPR ON-LINE: www.iwpr.net **************
 
IWPR's Caucasus Reporting Service provides the regional and
international community with unique insiders' perspective on the
Caucasus. Using our network of local journalists, the service
publishes objective news and analysis from across the region upon a
weekly basis.
 
The service forms part of IWPR's Caucasus Project based in Tbilisi and
London which supports local media development while encouraging better
local and international understanding of a conflicted yet emerging
region.
 
IWPR's Caucasus Reporting Service is supported by the UK National
Lottery Charities Board. The service is currently available on the Web
in English and will shortly be available in Russian. All IWPR's
reporting services including Balkan Crisis Reports and Tribunal Update
are available free of charge via e-mail subscription or direct from
the Web.
 
The institute will be launching a fourth news service, IWPR Central
Asia Reports, in the coming months. To subscribe to any of our
existing or forthcoming news services, e-mail IWPR Programmes Officer
Duncan Furey at duncan@iwpr.net.
 
For further details on this project and other information services and
media programmes, visit IWPR's Website: <www.iwpr.net>.
 
Editor-in-chief: Anthony Borden. Managing Editor: Yigal Chazan;
Assistant Editor: Alan Davis. Commissioning Editors: Giorgi Topouria
in Tbilisi, Shahin Rzayev in Baku, Mark Grigorian in Yerevan, Michael
Randall and Saule Mukhametrakhimova in London. Editorial Assistance:
Felix Corley and Heather Milner. To comment on this service, contact
IWPR's Programme Director: Alan Davis alan@iwpr.net
 
The Institute for War & Peace Reporting (IWPR) is a London-based
independent non-profit organisation supporting regional media and
democratic change.
 
Lancaster House, 33 Islington High Street, London N1 9LH, United
Kingdom.Tel: (44 171) 713 7130; Fax: (44 171) 713 7140. E-mail:
info@iwpr.net; Web: www.iwpr.net
 
The opinions expressed in IWPR's Caucasus Reporting Service are those
of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the
publication or of IWPR.
 
Copyright (c) IWPR 2000

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